Fellow Vincentians, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
This special time of year lifts our spirits and moves us to think about the brighter side of life. For a while, we try to see past our immediate troubles and hope for better things to come. It is also a time to be thankful. By the grace of God, each of us has made it through another year. Let us acknowledge and appreciate our blessings.
This year, we have been spared the worst of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. As we reflect on the devastation experienced by our Caribbean neighbours who bore the brunt of hurricanes Irma and Maria, we know how lucky we have been. So, when we engage in our traditional Christmas activities, we must not forget that for the people directly affected, Christmas traditions have been disrupted and ordinary life is still far from normal.
While we can all agree that this is not the time to dwell on political differences and things that may pull us apart, it is nevertheless necessary to note the important issues that have commanded our attention during the year.
For example, the nation still has not received an appropriate and acceptable response from the Minister of Finance to the serious concerns I raised about lack of accountability in the use of public resources.
Despite my repeated calls for adherence to basic constitutional requirements for accounting for public money, especially the need to account for it through the channel of Parliament, no audited accounts in relation to the construction of the Argyle airport have been presented to Parliament.
Moreover, the essential function of the Director of Audit to prepare the Annual Report on the public accounts of the country remains unfulfilled. We have not had the benefit of a report since the last one was prepared for the year 2010!
Many other serious and daunting challenges lie ahead of us as a nation. It is critically important that we understand our circumstances and take real and meaningful steps to address them.
We cannot move ahead as a country merely on promises, no matter how grandiose and optimistic they sound. In the management of our economy, we must create jobs and investment opportunities for our people.
Our farmers and fisherfolk need relief in the form of access to affordable credit to grow their businesses and lucrative markets for their produce.
We must also confront the challenge of violent crime, especially gun violence. Our hearts were deeply troubled this year by the awful news of fatal shootings and violent crime generally. Many of us felt the real danger of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and becoming another crime victim.
Since we manufacture no guns in this country, such weapons must be coming into the country illegally, especially through our poorly monitored waters, cays and bays. We must address this problem effectively and now is the time for us to commit to doing so.
While we enjoy the Christmas season, let us also be responsible in how we use the bounty of our planet. The recent destructive hurricanes have made us all more keenly aware of the very real dangers to life and property posed by climate change. The evidence is clear.
There is no longer any serious argument about global warming and the threat of climate change. It is a threat that cannot be exaggerated. We need to take better care of our planet and do what we must to build climate change resilience into our economy and general infrastructure.
We are in very difficult economic times. It is a time not for going it alone, but for coming together and sharing with one another so that we can truly live out our creed of being One Nation, One People, one Vincy.
It is our custom to wish one another “A Merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year”. Despite our challenges, by the grace of God, through our joint efforts, we will make our wish for a brighter future come true.
God bless us all.